The previous provinces of Japan in 1867, before the reforms.

The Fuhanken Sanchisei (府藩県三治制, "Fu, Han and Ken Tripartite Governance System") was an administrative reorganization undertaken by the Meiji Government in 1868, during the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate and the Boshin War. Over a period of four years, the old Provinces of Japan were recategorised into three different jurisdictions: urban prefectures (, fu), daimyō Domains (, han) and rural prefectures (, ken). This, along with further reforms during the abolition of the han System in 1871, led to the shaping of 45 of the 47 modern-day Prefectures of Japan.

Of the current prefectures existing in Japan, several of these were established in approximately their current forms during this era: Nagasaki Prefecture, Osaka Prefecture, Nara Prefecture, Shiga Prefecture (as Ōtsu-ken) and mainland Niigata Prefecture (without the addition of Sado Island in 1876).


At the end of the Asuka period, the Kokugunri system (国郡里制, Kokugunri-sei) and the Taihō Code were enacted in 701 and 702. These pieces of legislation split the regions of Japan into different areas, using terminology of the Tang dynasty due to Confucian influences in Japan.[1] This led to the creation of Provinces (, kuni), which were split into Districts (, gun, kōri). Other than the area surrounding the capital Nara (Kinai), Japan was organised into large regions called circuits (, ).

During the Tokugawa shogunate, lands were controlled by individual clans led by a Daimyo, called a han. Each han was a separate state with its own laws. In 1866, the Satsuma Domain and Chōshū Domain formed the Satchō Alliance in order to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate and strengthen the powers of the Emperor. This was successful, leading to the start of the Boshin War and the Meiji Restoration. The Tokugawa capital of Edo fell in May 1868, leading to the Meiji government taking charge of the country.


In June 1868, an interim constitution called the Seitaisho (政体書) was proclaimed, drafted by Fukuoka Takachika and Soejima Taneomi, which established central government in Japan under the Meiji government. The act dissolved the Tokugawa era court houses, creating government controlled prefectural governors called chifuji (知府事) and chikenji (知県事). All other areas still under the power of a daimyo, han, were left as they were with no structure changes, and an independent justice system.[2]

On June 14, 1868, Hakodate-fu and Kyoto-fu were established as the first two prefectures under the new changes. At the time, the Imperial government army forces were fighting the Republic of Ezo in the Battle of Hakodate, and despite the proclamation, the city of Hakodate had not fallen yet. By end of June, 11 prefectures had been created, including Edo-fu.

In July and August 1869 during the abolition of the han system, the government issued hanseki hokan (版籍奉還) to the remaining Han, asking them to voluntarily return their domains, and later were ordered to by the Court, on threat of military action. The Daimyo who agreed to this were appointed as chihanji (知藩事, "domain governors"), who had to follow the laws and instructions of the central government.

Many territories that became the first prefectures were territories confiscated from domains in the Boshin War, especially domains part of the Ōuetsu Reppan Dōmei alliance.

Areas in Kanto did not initially receive a proper prefecture name and suffix, even though they had appointed officials for the areas.

Establishment of urban prefecturesEdit

When initially creating prefecture suffixes, the Seitaisho proclaimed all areas with a jōdai (castle minder), namely Osaka, Sunpu and Kyoto, the shoshidai or a bugyō were given the prefectural suffix fu, while any other area was designated ken. The first two urban prefectures (, fu) were created on June 14, 1868: Kyoto-fu and Hakodate-fu. By the end of 1868, ten fu had been established: Kyoto, Hakodate, Osaka, Nagasaki, Edo (later Tokyo), Kanagawa, Watarai, Nara, Echigo (later Niigata) and Kōfu. Due to some prefectures gaining non-urban land or being amalgamated into other territories, in 1869 three remained: Kyoto-fu, Osaka-fu and Tokyo-fu. This remained the same until 1943, when Tokyo-fu and Tokyo-shi were merged to form Tokyo-to.

Naming and jurisdictionEdit

It was the convention to name prefectures and han after the location of their prefectural offices. However, this sometimes led to confusing names, with offices located non-centrally, or in exclaves. For example, Nirayama-ken was named after Nirayama on the Izu Peninsula, but administered parts of Shizuoka, Yamanashi, Tokyo, Kanagawa and Saitama. Many prefectures were merged for administration efficiency, but in October and November 1871 during the abolition of the han most of these were reorganised into a completely different form.

Established prefecturesEdit

The prefectures listed below were all established before the abolition of the han system. Disestablishment is only listed if prior to August 29, 1871, the time abolition came into effect.

Hokkaido and TōhokuEdit

Region Establishment Disestablishment Notes
Hakodate-fu June 14, 1868 (1868-06-14) August 15, 1869 (1869-08-15) Enlarged into Hakodate-ken on February 8, 1882, became part of Hokkaido on January 26, 1886.
Wakamatsu-ken (若松県) June 13, 1869 (1869-06-13)
Mono'u-ken (桃生県) August 27, 1869 (1869-08-27) October 22, 1870 (1870-10-22) Renamed Ishinomaki-ken (石巻県) on September 18, 1869. Absorbed into Fukushima.
Sakata-ken September 2, 1869 (1869-09-02) October 17, 1870 (1870-10-17) Absorbed into Yamagata.
Kunohe-ken (九戸県) September 12, 1869 (1869-09-12) December 30, 1869 (1869-12-30) Renamed Hachinohe-ken (八戸県) from October 17 to October 23, 1869, until the area was redrawn and amalgamated into Sannohe-ken (三戸県). Absorbed into Esashi.
Tome-ken (登米県)
Esashi-ken (江刺県)
Shiroishi-ken (白石県) Amalgamated Kakuda on December 23, 1869.
Shirakawa-ken (白河県)
Isawa-ken (胆沢県) September 17, 1869 (1869-09-17)
Morioka-ken (盛岡県) July 10, 1870 (1870-07-10) Established after the demise of the Morioka Domain

After the Daimyo of the northern domains were stripped of their social status in the Boshin War, the following Prefectures were created. These were mostly in name only, and did not function as proper entities.[3]

Region Establishment Disestablishment Notes
Hanamaki-ken (花巻県) January 19, 1869 (1869-01-19) September 23, 1869 (1869-09-23) Former Morioka and Sendai Domains' area administered by the Matsumoto Domain. Absorbed into Esashi.
Morioka-ken September 12, 1869 (1869-09-12) Former Morioka Domain area administered by Matsushiro Domain. Absorbed into Esashi. (different from Morioka-ken established in 1870)
Wakuya-ken (涌谷県) Former Morioka Domain area administered by Tsuchiura Domain. Absorbed into Tome.
Koori-ken (桑折県) August 27, 1869 (1869-08-27) Former area part of seven different domains, administered by Sōma Domain.
Kurihara-ken (栗原県) February 4, 1869 (1869-02-04) September 12, 1869 (1869-09-12) Former Sendai Domain administered by the Utsunomiya Domain. Absorbed into Isawa.
Hokuō-ken (北奥県) March 20, 1869 (1869-03-20) Former Morioka Domain administered by the Kurohane Domain. Absorbed into Kunohe.
Isawa-ken (伊沢県) April 11, 1869 (1869-04-11) September 23, 1869 (1869-09-23) Former Morioka, Sendai and Ichinoseki Domains administered by the Maebashi Domain. Absorbed into Isawa (胆沢).

Kantō regionEdit

Region Establishment Disestablishment Notes
Edo-fu (江戸府) June 30, 1868 (1868-06-30) On September 3, 1868 renamed Tōkyō-fu (東京府)
Kanagawa-fu (神奈川府) August 5, 1868 (1868-08-05) On November 5, 1868 renamed to its current name Kanagawa-ken (神奈川県)
Iwahana-ken (岩鼻県)
Musashi Chikenji (武蔵知県事) August 7, 1868 (1868-08-07) Renamed Ōmiya-ken (大宮県) on March 10, 1869. Split into Urawa-ken (浦和県) on November 2, 1869.
August 17, 1868 (1868-08-17) Split into Shinagawa-ken (品川県) on March 21, 1869.
August 27, 1868 (1868-08-27) Split into Kosuge-ken (小菅県) on February 23, 1869.
Hitachi Chikenji (常陸知県事) August 15, 1868 (1868-08-15) Renamed Wakamori-ken (若森県) on March 21, 1869.
Kazusa Awa Chikenshi (安房上総知県事) August 19, 1868 (1868-08-19) Renamed Miyazaku-ken (宮谷県) on March 21, 1869.
Shimōsa Chikenji (下総知県事) September 23, 1868 (1868-09-23) On February 23, 1868 renamed Katsushika-ken (葛飾県)
Mooka Chikenji (真岡知県事) July 12, 1868 (1868-07-12) Amalgamated into Nikkō-ken (日光県) on March 27, 1869.

Chūbu regionEdit

Region Establishment Disestablishment Notes
Kasamatsu-ken (笠松県) June 15, 1868 (1868-06-15) South part of Gifu
Hida-ken (飛騨県) July 12, 1868 (1868-07-12) Renamed Takayama-ken (高山県) on July 21, 1868
Echigo-fu (越後府) (first) July 18, 1868 (1868-07-18) September 3, 1869 (1869-09-03) Renamed Niigata-fu on November 5, 1868. Renamed Niigata-ken (first) on April 3, 1869.
Mikawa-ken (三河県) July 28, 1868 (1868-07-28) August 1, 1869 (1869-08-01) Absorbed into Ina in 1869.
Nirayama-ken (韮山県) August 17, 1868 (1868-08-17)
Kashiwayama-ken (柏崎県) (first) September 13, 1868 (1868-09-13) December 18, 1869 (1869-12-18) Separated from Echigo-fu, later added to Niigata-fu.
Ina-ken (伊那県) September 17, 1868 (1868-09-17) Renamed Nagano in 1870.
Sado-ken (佐渡県) October 17, 1868 (1868-10-17) Incorporated into Niigata-fu on December 18, 1868. During the split of Echigo-fu on August 30, 1869, became a prefecture again. Renamed Aikawa-ken (相川県) in 1871, merged into Niigata Prefecture in 1876.
Fuchū-ken (府中県) October 19, 1868 (1868-10-19) December 11, 1869 (1869-12-11) Merged into Kai-fu
Ichikawa-ken (市川県)
Isawa-ken (石和県)
Kai-fu (甲斐府) December 11, 1868 (1868-12-11) Renamed Kai-ken on August 27, 1868. Renamed Yamanashi Prefecture in 1871.
Echigo-fu (second) March 20, 1869 (1869-03-20) September 3, 1869 (1869-09-03) Re-established after the split of Niigata-fu.
Suibara-ken (水原県) September 3, 1869 (1869-09-03) Established after joining Echigo-fu and Niigata-ken. Merged and renamed as Niigata Prefecture (second) on April 7, 1870.
Kashiwayama-ken (second) September 30, 1869 (1869-09-30) Re-established after splitting from Suibara-ken.
Nakano-ken (中野県) October 11, 1870 (1870-10-11) Established after splitting from Ina. Borders redrawn and renamed Nagano Prefecture on August 8, 1871.
Hombo-ken (本保県) February 11, 1871 (1871-02-11)

Kansai regionEdit

Region Establishment Disestablishment Notes
Kyoto-fu June 14, 1868 (1868-06-14)
Ōtsu-ken (大津県) June 15, 1868 (1868-06-15) Renamed Shiga in 1872.
Osaka-fu June 21, 1868 (1868-06-21)
Kumihama-ken (久美浜県) June 28, 1868 (1868-06-28) Areas split into Ikuno-ken in 1969, merged into Toyooka-ken in 1871.
Nara-ken July 8, 1868 (1868-07-08) Renamed Nara-fu on September 15, 1868. On August 24, 1869, name changed back to Nara-ken.
Hyōgo-ken July 12, 1868 (1868-07-12)
Sakai-ken (堺県) August 10, 1868 (1868-08-10) Merged into Osaka-fu in 1881.
Watarai-fu (度会府) August 23, 1868 (1868-08-23) On August 24, 1869 renamed Watari-ken.
Settsu-ken (摂津県) March 2, 1869 (1869-03-02) September 7, 1869 (1869-09-07) Renamed Toyosaki-ken (豊崎県) on June 19, 1869. Merged into Hyōgo-ken in 1869, later merged into Osaka-fu in 1871.
Kawachi-ken (河内県) Merged into Sakai-ken.
Ikuno-ken (生野県) September 15, 1869 (1869-09-15)
Gojō-ken (五條県) March 28, 1870 (1870-03-28)

Chūgoku region, ShikokuEdit

Region Establishment Disestablishment Notes
Kurashiki-ken (倉敷県) July 15, 1868 (1868-07-15) Split into Fukatsu-ken, Hiroshima-ken and Tsuyama-ken (currently Kagawa-ken).
Oki-ken (隠岐県) April 6, 1869 (1869-04-06) Territory rearranged into Ōmori-ken (大森県) on September 7, 1869. Rearranged again into Hamada-ken (浜田県) on February 9, 1870.


Region Establishment Disestablishment Notes
Tomioka-ken (富岡県) June 15, 1868 (1868-06-15) October 14, 1868 (1868-10-14) Renamed Amakusa-ken (天草県) on July 29, 1868. Merged into Nagasaki-fu.
Hita-ken (日田県)
Tomidaka-ken (富高県) October 2, 1868 (1868-10-02) Merged into Hita-ken.
Nagasaki-fu June 23, 1868 (1868-06-23) Renamed Nagasaki-ken on July 28, 1869.


  1. ^ Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Taihō Code" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 924, p. 924, at Google Books.
  2. ^ Foote, Daniel H. (2011). Law in Japan: A Turning Point. Washington: University of Washington Press. ISBN 0295801352.
  3. ^ Senda, Minoru; Matsuo, Masato (1977). 明治維新研究序説―維新政権の直轄地― [An introduction to research of the Meiji Restoration: The powers of the government]. Tokyo, Japan: Kaimei Shoin.
  • Fujino, Tamotsu; Iwasaki, Takuya; Abe, Takeshi; Minegishi, Sumio (2012). 日本史事典 [History of Japan Encyclopedia]. Shinjuku, Tokyo: Asakura Shoten. ISBN 4254530196.
  • 旺文社日本史事典 [Obunsha Encyclopedia of the History of Japan]. Shinjuku, Tokyo: Obunsha. 2000. ISBN 4010353139.